City council labors for $2,121,432 worth of sewer/water improvements

By Charlie Warner
Argus Editor

The Caledonia City Council had a lot on their plates last week. After sifting through a mountain of price quotes and financing figures for 4.5 hours on May 14, they recessed the meeting and then spent three more hours the following night before they had navigated completely through the agenda.

The bulk of Monday night’s meeting was spent laboring over a number of sewer and water projects and purchases that will total $2,121,432.50.

Michael Davy of Davy Engineering walked the council through the projects, answered questions, made revisions in his original proposals and took a lot of notes.

Sanitary sewer improvements

The council has been preparing for a sanitary sewer improvement project for a number of years. They increased sewer rates to begin building up a fund for the project that will provide needed repairs to an aged system.

Several years ago the city had many of the sanitary lines “scoped,” where a TV camera was run down through the mains to inspect them. The inspection showed that much of the system was in dire need of repair.

After sifting through all the spot repairs on a colored map that had the top priority repairs in one color, the not so serious issues in another color and the “this can wait for a while” problem spots in another color, the council agreed to award six different repair projects to Griffin Construction of Chatfield at a cost of $821,695.30.

The council also awarded three “no dig” repair projects totalling $228,131 to Visu-Sewer, Inc. of Pequkee, Wis.

The council also awarded the North Pine Street lift station replacement project to Winona Mechanical, Inc. of Winona at a price of $180,490.

When all the contingency costs for engineering, consulting, legal and administrative fees were added in, the final price tag for the sanitary sewer improvements totaled $1,750,356.30.

Over $400,000 cut

Had the council gone along with all of the projects that were originally recommended, the cost would have been about $400,000 more.

The council took out a number of repair projects and decided to not conduct a “full blown” street improvement project on East Grant Street.

“It’s a dead end street, the property owners living along there aren’t in favor of it and we can cut about $200,000 by not widening the street and putting in curb and gutter,” Mayor Bob Burns said.

New water meters

The council approved the purchase of approximately 1,280 radio transmitted water meters to replace the vast majority of residential and commercial water meters. According to city staff, some of the meters are 50 years old.

It was explained that when water meters get older, they never turn faster (increasing the actual reading) but slow down. It is estimated that the city is currently losing close to $50,000 a year in lost revenues due to old meters in water sales and another $50,000 a year in sewer charges.

Another savings by purchasing the radio transmitted water meters would be a major decrease in labor costs to read the meters. Instead of having to physically enter into every home or building four times a year, city staff will be able to read the meters from the curb. And with the recent changeover with radio transmitted electric meters, both the electric and water meters will be read each month at the same time.

The majority of the current water meters are made with lead parts. According to state statute all meters must be lead-free by 2014.

The council approved the low bid for the new water meters from Dakota Supply Group of Burnsville for $280,431.05.

West side sewer project

The council unanimously approved a motion to move forward with the west side sewer project, which will provide sanitary sewer service to Bonanza Grain, Inc.

The council approved the bid of $29,475.15 to Winona Mechanical, Inc. of Winona to install the pressure sewer system.

The council has spent considerable time during the past six months trying to decide how to handle the handful of property owners located on the west side of Highways 44/76 who are not hooked up to the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Gary Kruckow, of Bonanza Grain, had approached the city last year after he had been contacted that the septic system his business was utilizing was not in compliance.

In December the council decided to prepare plans, obtain permits and bids and construct a pressure sewer main for Bonanza Grain at an estimated cost of $37,500.

With engineering, administrative and financing fees, the estimated cost of the project is $54,815.15.

In order for the project to proceed, the city must obtain sewer easements from Bonanza Grain and Wiebke Tire.

Obtaining the easement from Bonanza Grain won’t be a problem, but getting one from Joe Wiebke might be a challenge.

It was pointed out that current city ordinance states that if a piece of property can be served by a city-owned sanitary sewer system, the property owner has one year to connect.

Councilman Paul Fisch said he had a problem with forcing Wiebke to connect. If Wiebke does not wish to connect, the easement won’t be signed and the sewer line will have to be rerouted.